[ISEA2020] Panel: Joel Ong, Antonia Hernández, Kathy High & Stephanie Rothenberg — Queering Infrastructure: The System Through the Erotic

Panel Statement

Keywords: Queer studies, eroticism, feminism, pornography, multispecies, communication, biotechnology, webcams, ecosystem, services, climate geo-engineering

This panel questions what a politics of sentience might look like as it examines how the erotic as a queer method can be used to reimagine systems, networks and infrastructures as agential and embodied spaces.

In 1978, feminist writer Audrey Lorde presented her seminal essay “The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power” that challenged the word’s patriarchal overtones. In the essay, Lorde not only redefines but reignites the erotic as a power of feeling – a physical, psychic and emotional energy that can’t be reduced to a commodified good or systematized affect. In our current zeitgeist of neoliberal and recolonizing regimes, the use of the erotic as a vehicle for understanding and a means of empowerment is re-emerging. Conjoined with the tactics of queering networks, power is being reclaimed through more sentient experiences and actions that disrupt hegemonic narratives and engage a broader spectrum of bodies. The invisible is becoming more perceptible through subtle shifts in knowledge production that embrace intuitive modes of learning. British artist Rachal Bradley calls for an “erotics of infrastructure” as a way to “explore how the pleasurable, the charged, and the circuitous might recalibrate infrastructure from a non-neutral to a negotiable framework underlying our perception and our behavior in manifold ways.” This panel questions what a politics of sentience might look like as it examines how the erotic as a queer method can be used to reimagine systems, networks and infrastructures as agential and embodied spaces. Topics include queering the atmosphere, money as a sensory device, laughter through multi species communication, and how aphrodisia can disrupt global machines.

  • Kathy High (USA) is an interdisciplinary artist / educator who collaborates with scientists, and considers living systems, animal sentience, and the ethical dilemmas of biotechnology and medical industries. She produces photographs, films, culpture and installations posing queer and feminist questions into areas of bio-science that shave been exhibited across the Americas, Europe, Asia, Australia. High is Head and Professor of Video and New Media in the Department of the Arts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. She has a laboratory at RPI’s Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies and also is a supporter of community DIY science and ecological art practices. High is the project coordinator for a non-profit urban environmental center and community bio lab, NATURE Lab at The Sanctuary for Independent Media. Among many honors, she is the recipient of fellowships and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, and Guggenheim Foundation.
  • Antonia Hernandez is a Montreal-based Chilean media artist and PhD candidate in Communication at Concordia University (Montreal, Canada). Mixing media practice and theoretical investigation, her current research explores maintenance activities and the circulation of money on digital platforms. antoniahernandez.com
  • Stephanie Rothenberg’s interdisciplinary art draws from digital culture, science and economics to explore relationships between human designed systems and biological ecosystems. She has exhibited throughout the US and internationally in venues including Eyebeam (US), Sundance Film Festival (US), Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art / MASS MoCA (US), House of Electronic Arts / HeK (CH), LABoral (ES), Transmediale (DE), and ZKM Center for Art & Media (DE). She is a recipient of numerous awards, most recently from the Harpo Foundation and Creative Capital. Residencies include ZK/U Zentrum für Kunst und Urbanistik in Berlin, TOKAS / Tokyo Art and Space, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace, Eyebeam Art and Technology and the Santa Fe Art Institute. She is Associate Professor at SUNY Buffalo, NY, USA. stephanierothenberg.com
  • Joel Ong is a media artist whose works explore emergent ways of interfacing with the environment through hybrid discourse of art and science. His works involve a triangulation of field work, wet lab and computational art and are often presented as on-site experiments. Ong is an alumni of SymbioticA, the Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts and DXARTS at UW (Seattle, USA), and is an affiliate artist with the UCLA Art|Sci Collective. He is currently Assistant Professor in Computational Arts at York University in Toronto, Canada, and Director of Sensorium: the Centre for Digtial Arts and Technology.